Welcome to the second week of Writers in the Attic for 2017. Today, another interstate guest joins me—Vikki Holstein. Vikki is a romance writer, but of romance with a twist. I admire her ‘I’ll show them’ attitude, and that she’s prepared to take a risk and has dared to be different.
Her story of the road to publication and its pitfalls is inspiring and if you want to read an update from Vikki, with good news, you’ll find that post here.
Vikki has been writing for seventeen years and Hold Back is her seventh completed romance novel. She has also written children’s stories, short stories, the first book of a fantasy trilogy, and the first book in a YA trilogy. Her writing is Contemporary Rural Romance, but has been described as Dark Romance.
Vikki finds inspiration in the everyday life of country Australia, the people around her, and her past. With another six projects in the early stages of being written, plus too many to count on the fringes, Vikki can see a long career ahead of her.
She can be reached on her Facebook page here or at her blog here.
Writing Alternative Romance
The goal of being published overshadowed the pleasure of creating the story, the lives of my characters.
I grew up learning the benefits of escapism through reading and making up my own stories. Books gave me a vision of a life without fear, without having to hide from an uncle who did things he shouldn’t have.
Although I didn’t take a career as a writer seriously until after my third child was born, I was an avid reader of anything and everything I could get my hands on.
After being disillusioned by the last romance I’d read because they never seemed to hit the hard notes of life, I decided it was time to put pen to paper, and write the stories that seemed to be lacking in the romance world. Ones with heroines who did more than swoon, more than let the man save them. Ones with heroines who had been through some of the ugly things life can throw at them, and still came out the other end with their happy ever after.
The rejection of the first draft of the first manuscript came as a jolt.
Looking back, I can see where I went wrong. Expecting a freshly written manuscript to be picked up was not only egotistical, but laughable. (Though the rejection went along the lines of ‘we would be interested in seeing future works’.)
Picking myself up, I held the I’ll show them attitude close as I tried my hand at a fantasy. Again rejections came, and again, looking back, I can see the mistakes still being made by my fledgling writer self.
The goal of being published overshadowed the pleasure of creating the story, the lives of my characters.
Worse still, I shied away from what really needed to be written.
At heart, I’m a romance writer. It took years to not cringe or blush when asked what kind of books I wrote. I’m a romantic at heart, but I’m not afraid to tell the story how it is. My characters face the nitty-gritty of life and deal with the invisible scars that abuse invariably brands on the mind and heart.
As I struggle, so do my characters, with a myriad of mental illnesses while trying to find their way through life. They face, and hopefully break, the stigmas around abuse, child abuse, and mental health issues.
Based in rural Victoria, I combine my other passions with my writing. Horses have, and always will, play a big role in my life. Every book I’ve written has at least one horse in it.
Although my children are now adults and have lives of their own, camping trips to fossick for gems, or noodle for opals, or just see the countryside, are constant. These trips fill my notebooks with ideas, my soul with inspiration.
When not on a camping trip, music serves as a muse. With a playlist that includes rock, country, pop, alternative, and songs the kids have added, I like nothing more than an empty house, the music loud, and to sink into my latest work in progress.
My project for the past four years has been the White Wattle series. Five books that follow a group of friends in a small town as they face the different paths life lays before them.
My goal is still for my books to be published, however I’m not so quick to make the same mistakes my earlier self did. Hold Back, the first book of the White Wattle series is on its third major rewrite, and I’ve lost count of the number of edits.
I hope my writing reaches people who can identify with my character, and fills that gap I saw lacking all those years ago.
I hope you enjoyed reading Vikki’s piece and feel inspired to write your own.
If you’d like to write for Writers in the Attic, 600-1000 words is a good length, and the topic is ‘Your writing life’ or ‘What writing means to you’, or anything that touches on writing, really.
I’m booked until mid-March, but please send one in as that time will fly and I’d love to post your story.
I acknowledge the time and effort involved in writing these pieces by sending a small gift as a thank you.
If you’re interested, please contact me by clicking here.
Nice to read about a fellow romance writer here, Vikki.
Thanks. There’s a few of us around ????
Just a few! Both of you write ‘slightly-different-romance’ too! 🙂
I love this story, Vikki. I love that you are showing the dark side of romance. Like you, when I was a child I used fantasy to escape reality, though mine was dark in different ways than yours. You haven’t mentioned if you’ve published any of your books. If you have, I’d like to read one.
Thanks Christina. I think a lot of us used early story telling as a survival mechanism. I’m glad I can use mine now for a better purpose.
I don’t have anything published yet. Hold Back is with an agent at the moment, so fingers crossed ????
I used to fantasise as a means of escape, too—I think it was an important survival mechanism. I used to lie in bed and imagine I was talking to someone and telling them about everything that was going on in our family. I also loved The Brady Bunch and Little House on the Prairie, and imagined I had Carol Brady or Caroline Ingalls as my mother.
Like you, Vikki, I now use fantasy and escape to write my fiction. I love nothing more than lying in bed imagining my characters’ lives.
And fiction is a great way of telling an emotional truth.
Thanks for visiting, Christina. 🙂
What a lovely conversation! The French philosopher, Michel de Certeau, writes about ‘escaping without leaving’. And Drusilla Modjeska, talking about writing her story of her mother, ‘Poppy’, calls it ‘temporising’, a strategy children with a sensitive disposition develop as a response to displacement, loss, abuse. They feel unsafe in their environment, and so they escape into other dimensions.
Really? I’ll have to read Drusilla Modjeska.
As a child, I was too embarrassed to tell anyone about my fantasies. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve realised all—and I mean ‘all’—my behaviours were adaptive to the situation I was in but couldn’t escape. I can see how telling this imaginary person—who I used to think of as in the sky somewhere, kind of like a guardian angel—helped. They were very kind and sympathetic, and said things like, ‘I understand. It’s so hard for you.’ (You can see why I didn’t tell anyone—not only would I have been thought of as weird, but I’d have been accused of being self-indulgent.) But it was what I needed to hear and it kept me going.
Having my own children made me realise that I’d just been a normal kid, but told otherwise.
We are perhaps most creative when isolated, because we can’t turn to others to meet our needs. What haunts us is our fears. As Hamlet said, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams”.
Maybe, and maybe feeling isolated means we have to find comfort within ourselves.
Love the Hamlet quote. x
Thank you for your honesty, Vikki, and for telling it like it is in your stories. The more we bring darkness into the light, the greater the likelihood that people will speak out when they are wronged. Bravo! All the best with your writing. And thanks for giving us the opportunity to read Vikki’s post, Louise.
That’s what I’m hoping, that others will read my stories and see they aren’t alone, and that they can step forward and have the support and understanding they deserve (even if its not by family)
I like your phrase, Maureen, about bringing darkness in as well as light. Good books do that.
And Vikki, I love it when I read about people like me on a page—it does make one feel much less alone. 🙂
Great to learn more about a writing process and be introduced to Vikki. I love hearing how we all think as writers along the same line.
We writers share a lot of similar experiences and emotions, Rae! No woman is an island. 🙂
Thanks Rae (I have a dragon in one of my other books called Rae ????) I love reading about other author’s journrys, too. Its great to see the similarities, as well as the differences.
I admire your desire to make romances ‘real’. Keep writing and keep learning – a message there for all of us.
When I write, I like to delve into the deeper emotions, the what happens next. I’ve written two short (15K) romances which are more on the escapist side, but my passion is going deeper, and that’s what my novel – not a romance – aims to do.
Yes, keep writing and keep learning is a message for all of us, and I’ve just written a FB post about discovering that very same message! (I’ll post it today or tomorrow.)
Delving deep is my favourite kind of writing, too. It takes time, slowly digging, layer by layer, but you find the gold if you’re prepared to do it. And it is gold, and you know it when you strike it. It speaks to you on a very deep level, and those sorts of truths usually speak to others, too.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Monique. 🙂
I can’t help but write, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning.
I think one of the reasons I had trouble calling my writing romance was because it never fit the ideal. I still have trouble finding the right niche to slot it into.
And yes, its the delving deeper I love to erite, and read ????
I loved reading about your many passions and interests, Vikki. Such a rich life must reflect on your writing and enrich it as well. I’m curious about your writing process, and what happens when you leave one project and move to the next. Do you go back and rethink any of your stories, discard them or banish them to the bottom drawer? It sounds as if you’re written some beauties that should be published.
I’m glad you enjoyed it Maureen. I’ve never really thought about my writing process, and my first reaction just then was “I just sit down and write”, but of course it is more than that ???? I guess I tend to start with a snippet of a scene. With Hold Back, I could see the central scene of Ethan, shocked, standing beside his bed and telling a naked sixteen year old Kelsey to come back when she’d grown up. Then I saw her, five years later, walking back into his life with a little girl on her hip. The first draft (I’m a panster) was just getting down the bones of what had happened in those five years, why she was back, and what happened next. With the next draft, two (I thought) minor characters put their hands up for their story to be told. The third draft consolidated them all in the story, and now I’m getting the finer details down.
Most if the time, I have at least two or three other stories circling in the back of my mind, so moving onto the next one is just a case of writing The End on one, knowing it needs to rest for a bit, and opening the next. Being a panster helps I think. I take notes for characters, and scene snippets I might get, but I don’t plan what I’m going to write.
I think about my early stories a lot. I’m thinking I’m at the point now where I could probably do them justice ????
Sounds like you have a fertile mind, Vikki, and plenty of fodder to work with. I admire how you can switch projects so quickly! I hope you do return to your old stories and see what you can do with them now! 🙂